A year ago Northwestern University chemists published their recipe for a new class of nanostructures made of sugar, salt and alcohol. Now, the same team has discovered the edible compounds can efficiently detect, capture and store carbon dioxide. And the compounds themselves are carbon-neutral.
The porous crystals -- known as metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) -- are made from all-natural ingredients and are simple to prepare, giving them a huge advantage over other MOFs. Conventional MOFs, which also are effective at adsorbing carbon dioxide, are usually prepared from materials derived from crude oil and often incorporate toxic heavy metals.
Other features of the Northwestern MOFs are they turn red when completely full of carbon dioxide, and the carbon capture process is reversible.
The findings, made by scientists working in the laboratory of Sir Fraser Stoddart, Board of Trustees Professor of Chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, are published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS).
"We are able to take molecules that are themselves sourced from atmospheric carbon, through photosynthesis, and use them to capture even more carbon dioxide," said Ross S. Forgan, a co-author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow in Stoddart's laboratory. "By preparing our MOFs from naturally derived ingredients, we are not only making materials that are entirely nontoxic, but we are also cutting down on the carbon dioxide emissions associated with their manufacture."
The main component, gamma-cyclodextrin, is a naturally occurring biorenewable sugar molecule that is derived from cornstarch.
The sugar molecules are held in place by metals taken from salts such as potassium benzoate or rubidium hydroxide, and it is the precise arrangement of the sugars in the crystals that is vital to their successful capture of carbon dioxide.
"It turns out that a fairly unexpected event occurs
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